Henry the Fowler

From Academic Kids

Henry I, the Fowler (German: Heinrich der Vogler) (876 - July 2, 936), was Duke of Saxony from 912 and king of the Germans from 919 until his death in 936. First of the Ottonian Dynasty of German kings and emperors, he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German Empire, known until then as the East Franconian Kingdom. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet "the Fowler" because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king.

Henry was the son of Otto the Illustrious, duke of Saxony, and his wife Hedwiga, a great-granddaughter of Charlemagne. In 906 he married Hatheburg, daughter of the Saxon count Erwin, but divorced her in 909 after she had given birth to his son Thankmar. Later that year he married Matilda of Ringelheim, daughter of Dietrich, count in western Saxony (Westfalia). Matilda bore him three sons and two daughters and founded many religious institutions, including the abbey of Quedlinburg where Henry is buried, and was later canonized.

Henry became duke of Saxony upon his father's death in 912 and, an able ruler, continued to strengthen Saxony, frequently in conflict with his neighbors to the South, the dukes of Franconia.

In 918 king Conrad I of the East-Franconian Empire, and duke of Franconia, died and recommended Henry as his successor as king, despite the fact that they had been at odds with each other from 912 to 915 over the title to lands in Thuringia. Conrad's choice was conveyed by duke Eberhard III of Franconia, Conrad's bother and successor, to the assembled Franconian and Saxon nobles at the Reichstag of Fritzlar in 919, which duly elected Henry to be king. Duke Burkhard I of Swabia soon followed suit, but duke Arnulf of Bavaria did not submit until Henry invaded Bavaria in 921 and Arnulf swore fealty to him.

Henry regarded the kingdom as a confederation of tribal duchies rather than a feudal kingdom and himself as primus inter pares. Rather than seeking to administer the empire through counts, as Charlemagne had done and his successors had attempted, Henry allowed the dukes of Franconia, Swabia and Bavaria to maintain complete internal control of their holdings. In 925, he defeated Giselbert, duke of Lotharingia (Lorraine), and brought that realm, which had been lost in 910, back into the German kingdom as the fifth tribal duchy (the others being Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, and Bavaria), but allowing Giselbert to remain in power and marrying his daughter Gerberga to his new vassal in 928.

Henry was the only king of his time not to be anointed by a high church official, apparently because he did not wish to be a king by the church's but by the people's acclaim.

Henry was a very able military leader. Germany had been repeatedly raided by the Magyars (Hungarians), and in 924 Henry paid them a tribute to secure a ten-year truce so that he could fortify towns and train a new elite cavalry force. With his new army, he conquered the Havelli and the Daleminzi in 928 and put down a rebellion in Bohemia in 929. When the Magyars began raiding again, he led an army of all German tribes to victory over them at the battle of Riade in 933, stopping one of their advances into Germany. He also pacified territories to the north, where the Danes had harried the Frisians off to the sea. The monk and historian Widukind of Corvey in his Rex gestae Saxonicae reports that the Danes were subjects of Henry the Fowler. Henry incorporated territories held by the Wends, who together with the Danes had attacked Germany, into his kingdom and also conquered Schleswig in 934.

When Henry died on 2 July 936, all German tribes were united in a single kingdom. Henry I is therefore considered the first German king and the founder of the eventual Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiliges Rmisches Reich Deutscher Nation).

His son Otto succeeded him as Emperor Otto I ("the Great"). His second son, Henry, became duke of Bavaria. A third son, Brun (or Bruno), became archbishop of Cologne. His son from his first marriage, Thankmar, rebelled against his half-brother Otto and was killed in battle in 936. His daughter Gerberga married Duke Giselbert of Lorraine and subsequently King Louis IV of France. His youngest daughter Hedwige of Saxony married Duke (Hugh the Great) of France and was the mother of Hugh Capet, the first Capetian king of France.

Preceded by:
Conrad I
King of Germany
Succeeded by:
Otto I
Preceded by:
Otto I the Illustrious
Duke of Saxony
Succeeded by:
Otto the Great

Template:End box

Henry the Fowler is also the name of a wandering minstrel from the Tirol, the author of two cycles about Dietrich von Bern.da:Henrik Fuglefnger de:Heinrich I. (Ostfrankenreich) es:Enrique I el Pajarero fr:Henri l'Oiseleur nl:Hendrik de Vogelaar pl:Henryk I Ptasznik sv:Henrik I av Sachsen zh:亨利一世 (德意志)


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